This article is part of our Cap Compliance series.
While the current season remains on hiatus, there is no time like the present to start looking ahead to next year. Over the next several weeks, we'll take a look at the cap situation for all 31 NHL clubs, including restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents and even potential buyouts. Then, we'll play a little armchair General Manager by providing our recommendations for how we would approach the upcoming 2020-21 campaign if we were running the club.
In our second Twitter poll, the Arizona Coyotes came in second, so we'll head to the desert next:
2020-21 Cap Situation
The Coyotes currently have 10 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders under contract for next season at a price tag of $79,990,000, though that includes $5.275 million which will turn into cap space thanks to LTIR savings from Marian Hossa. Assuming a flat cap of $81.5 million, this leaves the club with $6,785,000 in salary cap space and six spots under the 23-man roster to fill.
Restricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: Starting with the blue line, Lyubushkin can expect a qualifying offer with a base salary of $917,831 which would be a two-way deal. He figures to be the seventh defenseman at best heading into next season, but could probably be convinced to take closer to $850,000 if the Yotes would make it a one-way contract. It was a significantly down year for Fischer, who managed just nine points in 56 contests this season, which followed a disappointing sophomore campaign in which he failed to reach the 20-point mark. Prior to this season, Kasperi Kapanen's three-year, $9.6 million deal would likely have been a fair comparable. I don't see Arizona wanting to go beyond a $3 million AAV, so I'd expect Fischer to land closer to a three-year, $7.5 million contract. Unfortunately, I just can't see how the team can manage to keep all three of these guys and in terms of a long-term outlook, I think the Coyotes should look at moving Hinostroza or letting him hit unrestricted free agency.
Kyle Riley: Lyubushkin is already 26 years old and has only tallied eight points in 92 games during his first two years in the league, so although he'll have arbitration rights, a one-year deal just north of his standard qualifying offer should do the trick. Fischer's production has steadily declined during his first full three seasons in the league, but he's three years younger than Hinostroza and one of the Coyotes' best two-way forwards, so I'd definitely prioritize re-signing him. He doesn't have arbitration rights which means he won't have much bargaining power, so I think a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension should get it done. Hinostroza is a solid middle-six forward, but he shouldn't be expecting a big raise having notched just five goals and 22 points through 68 games this campaign. Nonetheless, unlike Fischer, he does have arbitration rights, so if he isn't willing to agree to something like a two-year, $4 million contract, the 'Yotes should let him walk.
Unrestricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: Unfortunately for the Coyotes, there simply isn't enough space in a flat cap situation to retain Taylor Hall heading into next season. It was going to be tough to work out the financials even if the cap moved up to $84 million. With Clayton Keller's extension kicking in ($7.15 million AAV), the funding simply isn't there for Hall, who likely will be looking for close to $9-10 million a year. I think the same goes for Soderberg, who will be turning 35 during the upcoming season, and needs to be allowed to hit free agency. That leaves about some funds available for the team to spend on the likes of Richardson. The club won't have to give him a huge raise, but a slight bump to $1.50 million for 3-4 years figures to keep him playing in the desert.
Kyle Riley: As AJ explained, the Coyotes simply can't afford Hall, who will be looking for a seven-year contract with an AAV of at least $10 million, so he's as good as gone. Soderberg's still a good player, but he'll be 35 years old next season, so he shouldn't be expecting (and won't get) a very lucrative contract. Arizona could explore the route of getting him to agree to take less money ($1.5 million AAV) annually for more term (two years), but if he's offered something like a one-year, $2.5 million deal from another club, the 'Yotes should let him walk. He and Derick Brassard have put up similar numbers during their respective careers, and Brassard (who's two years younger) just signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Islanders last summer, so two years at $1.5 million annually might actually even be a bit of an overpay for Soderberg. Richardson will also be 35 next season, but he's only produced six goals and 11 points in 59 games this campaign, so I don't see any reason for the Coyotes to make an effort to re-sign him. He's still an effective fourth-line center and penalty-killer, but I think Arizona should give Lane Pederson a shot at that role next season. Pederson has been highly productive (16 goals, 34 points in 37 games) in the minors this year, so he could offer far more offensive upside than Richardson while still playing a strong 200-foot game.
Minor-League Free Agents *Who appeared in an NHL game in 2019-20
AJ Scholz: With Lyubushkin signed based on his NHL experience and long-term upside, the best Gross and Capobianco can likely hope for is to sign their qualifying offers, $874,125 and $761,250 respectively, as the team is hard up against the cap and won't want to invest significantly more funds into an already costly backend. Hill has been a capable No. 3 option for the team, however, he won't be joining the 23-man roster out the gates. Ultimately, it may come down to allowing the Merrick Madsen take on that role if contract negotiations become too contentious.
Kyle Riley: With Lyubushkin re-signed, Gross and Capobianco will both presumably begin next season in the minors, so their salaries won't count against the cap (at least initially). Gross will be arbitration eligible, but he's only appeared in two NHL contests since signing his entry-level deal in April of 2018, so he shouldn't be looking for anything more than his qualifying offer. The same can be said for Capobianco, who won't be arbitration eligible and shouldn't be looking for much more than his QO after appearing in just 12 games with the 'Yotes over the past three campaigns. Hill was decent in limited action with the big club this season while filling in for the injured Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta, and he'll be arbitration eligible, but I think a one-year, two-way contract with an AAV around $1 million should get it done.
AJ Scholz: There just isn't a way for Arizona to fit Taylor Hall under the cap. About the only scenario I can think of to even remotely make that work would be to trade away both Alex Goligoski and Niklas Hjalmarsson and replace them with the likes of the aforementioned Gross and Capobianco. This would provide the organization with just over $9 million in cap space and give them the ability to sign Hall. Even if they could find somebody to take those two players, would it make the team better? I don't believe so with the lack of corresponding depth on the blue line. It was a gamble to bring in Hall, one that simply hasn't paid off for the club.
Kyle Riley: Arizona gave up a first-round pick, a third-round pick and three prospects for the pleasure of watching Hall walk in free agency after just 35 games of solid production, so that was obviously a big swing and miss for GM John Chayka. Re-signing Hinostroza, Fischer, Lyubushkin and Soderberg would put the Coyotes right up against the cap, but they should still have enough room to add the aforementioned Lane Pederson and another depth forward to round out their roster.